When I heard the Terrace, Kitimat and Area Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC)-previously known as the Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC)- members were coming together to share examples of how their communities had embraced culture as a means of improving mental wellness, I was excited. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a cultural experience that shows off community strengths and traditional values? I knew this was going to be a memorable event for myself and all who attended - and guess what? I was not let down!
On June 8th, 2017, Kitselas First Nation hosted a “Celebration of Successes” event showcasing three First Nations community projects that explore mental wellness from a community and cultural perspective.
Over 60 people from Kitselas, the Terrace/Kitimat and Area Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC), and its member communities, attended the celebration in Kulspai. The event started off with a welcome to the Tsimshian territory from elder Edward Innes and a welcome from former councillor Lynn Wright-Parker. Jennifer Brady-Giles, the Kitselas Home and Community Health Nurse facilitated the day.
Jonathan Cooper, the Northern Health Kitimat Health Services Administrator and Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC Chair, and I, Victoria Carter, Northern Health Lead for Engagement and Integration with Indigenous Health, gave an overview of the IHIC and its work. Communities shared their projects and attendees were even entertained by the Kitselas drummers, who performed some songs and a wonderful lunch was served that all participants shared in!
Curious about what community projects were shared? The projects came from the Kitselas First Nation, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, and the Gitxsan West communities. Here’s what they did:
Kitselas First Nation
Kitselas showcased their youth wellness video which highlighted the current youth activities in Kitselas and their future vision.
Nisga’a Valley Health Authority
The Nisga’a Valley Health Authority showcased their family conference which focuses on integrating culture into health and wellness services by incorporating traditional teachings and events.
Gitxsan West communities showcased their project of reigniting Gitxsan culture within mental health. In this project, knowledge holders from the communities came together to identify and document Gitxsan traditional mental wellness and will begin to strategize how best to reignite these practices.
Traditional knowledge holders met to share and to strategize how this information will be used. Many at the celebration spoke up to praise the projects, to share their own stories, to show support of the initiatives, and to offer words of encouragement for these innovative approaches to wellness. Appreciation in the room grew as ideas of cultural renewal and its healing power were shared.
Sponsorship of the event and projects were supplied by the Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC. Curious what an Indigenous Health Improvement Committee (IHIC)/Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is? There are eight AHICs/IHICs across the north made up of leads from Indigenous communities, Northern Health, the First Nations Health Authority, and other sectors. AHICs/IHICs identify health challenges facing Indigenous people in the area and work collaboratively towards solutions.
At this event, Kitselas, Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, and the Gitxsan West communities shared their projects and how they have benefited their communities. It was a great opportunity to learn about how the Terrace/Kitimat and Area IHIC, and health leads from Indigenous communities and groups like Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority, are collaborating to address community needs and suggestions in innovative ways.
Thanks go to Kitselas for hosting this amazing event!